Dear Event Professionals, It's OK Not To Be OK

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I’ve been an event professional for 17 years, so I’ve known for a long time that I have the fifth hardest job in the world. But many people don’t realize how demanding the role is.

Being an event person comes with the widespread perception that all you do is travel, throw parties, and meet celebrities. While those are perks of the job, they don’t come close to painting the full picture.

So, every year, when media outlets recognize how hard event management is, I find myself sharing the articles everywhere –– working to dispel the myths that the job is all glitz and glamour.

When the pandemic hit in early 2020, the word “stressful” couldn’t begin to describe my mental state. I was working at another company at the time, three months away from a 6,000-person event, when the call was made — cancel everything.

For the uninitiated, this sounds easier said than done. You see, the contracts professionals put in place with hotels, venues, speakers, and vendors are meant to safeguard both parties from last-minute cancellations, making them nearly impossible to break without discussing the terms.

I remember calling our hotel contacts with the intention of releasing the liability of our room blocks. At times, it was hard to get a hold of anyone, and I quickly learned the contacts I’d had relationships with for years had been furloughed or let go. It was in that moment that I realized the impact this was having on our industry. The fear quickly crept in –– was I about to be cancelled too?

I was seven months pregnant with my second child, and all the ‘what ifs’ and worries were exacting their toll on me –– a toll I couldn’t fully comprehend at the time. So, instead, I doubled down on keeping the event afloat: I pivoted, upskilled, and forged ahead.

We kept the dates and went virtual. The team and I learned how to be technical gurus, A/V experts, and website builders. We schooled ourselves in how to engage people online. Eventually, that 6,000-person event became a successful 17,000-person virtual experience.

Hindsight is 20/20. So when I started to look back at the experience, the bright spots along the way stood out the most. I discovered the power and accessibility of online events. I also found out I could reimagine my role as an event professional –– an experience that ultimately led me to Hopin.

When I started, I was a corporate marketing team of one, and I’ve been sprinting at the typical startup pace ever since. While it’s thrilling to help build a business from scratch –– to be a leader as we disrupt an industry and create a new category –– the pressure, expectations, and sheer workload to be tackled often feel overwhelming.

Things were looking up for a while as it seemed like the end of the pandemic was near — until it wasn’t. After a year of turmoil and uncertainty, the thought of this nightmare continuing indefinitely was disheartening.

It all had a compounding effect on my mental and physical health –– one that still wasn’t fully visible to me.

Then one day, as I scrolled through my feed, a post from our own Julius Solaris made me see clearly what had been happening — not just to me but all of us in the event industry. I was inspired to take action — if not for myself, then for my industry peers.

We immediately began planning EventMinded, a summit focused on the mental health and wellness of event professionals. The team pulled together a wishlist of speakers and discussed how to make a meaningful impact on the community.

The mental health of the event industry was long overdue for discussion. But as we feverishly planned every detail to ensure our attempt to address this serious issue was done authentically, something didn’t feel right. We were halfway through the planning process for EventMinded when I mused with the team how fascinating it was that, as we planned an event meant to help people like us not be so stressed out, we were all stressed out.

I found myself in the emergency room a few days later — partially amused at the irony and wishing I would have acknowledged the signals that I was not OK.

They say when your mind and body don’t connect, it starts pulling you apart at the seams. For almost two years, I was taking care of everyone and everything around me — my kids, my husband, birthdays, friends, work — but I wasn’t taking care of myself. I had never reflected on everything that’s happened; I never absorbed it. I just kept going because there was an unspoken expectation that I should evolve –– that I should be able to do it all.

Fortunately, I’m now surrounded by an incredible corporate marketing team who continued to stitch EventMinded together and make sure it crossed the finish line.

Three weeks after I had landed in the hospital, EventMinded came to life. For once in my career –– in between my hosting duties –– I let myself be an attendee. Every moment resonated with me. I learned about new coping mechanisms from Adam Grant. Dr. Seth J. Gillihan’s CBT exercise shifted my perspective on the challenges ahead. And, best of all, I felt closer to the brave event professionals who shared their personal struggles as we attempted to start healing –– together. It was cathartic.

But the turning point for me came when I met Simone Biles one-on-one.

Earlier in the day, as our guest of honor, Simone told her unfiltered story about initially being scared to go to a psychologist and the journey to finally being able to prioritize her mental health. “It’s OK not to be OK,” she said. The words echoed warmly through the virtual halls of EventMinded and reverberated out to our global audience.

Simone’s vulnerability inspired me to reconsider skipping her meet-and-greet session at the last minute –– after all, I’m not a gymnastics fanatic. I’m also not the type to get starstruck, but when I began thanking her for participating in the event, my eyes filled with tears and before I knew it, they slowly started streaming down my face. I was embarrassed, and started apologizing profusely. Here I was CRYING in front of the GOAT, Simone Biles.

“It’s OK, it’s totally OK,” she said.

My reaction was a response to Simone’s story and how much it resonated with me as I grappled with my own challenges. In that moment, she validated my struggle and humanized the situation for me –– we were just two people with a mutual understanding. This is why we do what we do in the events industry –– we break down barriers to create connections.

In the days after EventMinded, I continued to recall her keynote and our conversation. Simone faces a level of scrutiny I may never be subjected to, yet she had the courage to put her health first –– and speak openly about her experience.

My story definitely isn’t over –– it’s just beginning. I know that. And if Simone Biles can be open, raw, and honest about her mental health journey, so can I.

EventMinded was a cathartic release for me and so many others who reached out to me after the event. I realized how many people I can help, and I want to help people.

As business leaders, we often put on armor –– we strive to appear strong and put together. We’re so protective of our egos and how we present ourselves. People forget that you’re not just a box on a screen –– that you’re normal, human.

It’s OK to be vulnerable as a leader. It’s OK to be imperfect. It’s OK to take off the armor, to be empathetic, to struggle like everyone else. It’s OK not to be OK.

My hope is that you know you’re not alone; that if I can find common ground with the most decorated gymnast of all time, you can too –– whether you’re an event professional or not.

I’m not a vulnerable person, but if sharing my story on a platform like this helps other people feel safe to do the same, then I’m all in.

After all, our healing journey is a true shared experience. Many of us are not OK, especially after the last two years. But we’ll navigate the next steps the best way we know how –– together, as a community.

If you’re beginning your own mental health journey and looking for some resources, our EventMinded partners can help you get started:

  • EventWell: Mental health resources for the event professional community
  • BetterHelp: Get a free month of therapy if you attended EventMinded (email coming soon to attendees)
  • Bloom: Use promo code BLOOM25 to get a 40% discount on an annual membership
  • Project Healthy Minds: A non-profit that surfaces any and all resources related to mental health
  • Modern Health: A business-to-business mental health provider
  • NTM Sound: Sign up to experience a soothing sound bath

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